How Can I Ensure My Estate is Probated in Florida?
Florida is well-known as a retirement destination or “second home” for many people. But this can present certain complications when it comes to estate planning, and eventually the probate of a person’s estate. From a legal standpoint, a person may have many “residences” but only one “domicile.”
Your domicile is your main place of residence. When you die, your will is normally filed for probate in the state of your domicile. Any personal property you own–cash, jewelry, et cetera–is then subject to probate under your domicile state’s rules. If you own real property in another state, your estate will typically open a secondary (or “ancillary”) probate in the non-domicile state.
Domicile is also important in establishing other legal protections. For example, Florida provides a generous homestead exemption. This can protect your primary residence from creditor claims, even after you die. Florida also has no state income or estate tax, while other states do.
Steps You Can Take to Establish a Florida Domicile
So if you have recently moved to Florida and intend to make it your domicile, what should you do? There is no single means of changing your domicile from another state to Florida. But there are multiple small steps you can take to prove Florida is now your legal home:
- You can file a “Florida Declaration of Domicile” with the county where you live.
- You can obtain a Florida driver’s license or state identification card as soon as possible.
- You can register any cars, trucks, or boats you own with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
- If you have a passport, you can obtain a new one that reflects your Florida address.
- Although Florida has no state income tax, make sure you start filing your federal income tax returns listing your Florida address. Keep in mind, if you earned income while residing in another state for part of the year, you may still need to file a separate tax return with that state.
- Register and exercise your right to vote in Florida.
- If you continue to split your time between Florida and another state, keep a log or journal of how many days you are actually in Florida; normally you need to spend at least half of each year in your domicile state.
- If you own a home in Florida, file an application for the homestead tax exemption.
Have You Recently Moved to Florida? Consider Speaking with an Estate Planning Lawyer
It is also a good idea to create Florida-specific estate planning documents after moving from here another state. Although most out-of-state wills are still considered valid in Florida, having an in-state will can strengthen your ties to the state for purposes of establishing domicile. Also note that when it comes to other estate planning documents, such as health care directives and powers of attorney, Florida has specific forms that may substantially differ from those of other states.
If you need advice or assistance in preparing new documents from a qualified Fort Myers estate planning attorney, contact the Kuhn Law Firm, P.A., today at 239-333-4529 to schedule a free consultation.